Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Welcome to the House of Usher...I Mean Crimson Peak

If ever a movie suffers from bad advertising choices, it is Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak. The movie is a slow paced, to say the least, with some intense moments of scariness, but its storytelling is frequently plodding rather than building suspense.

Crimson Peak is visually stunning and well-acted by it fairly small ensemble cast of Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain as the creepy and not all too normal brother and sister, Sir Thomas Sharpe and Lady Lucille Sharp. Mia Wasikowska is Edith Cushing who becomes Sir Thomas's bride plays the heroine demonstrating some range. Charlie Hunnam plays would-be hero Dr. Alan McMichael who is the most two-dimensional of the characters. Jim Beaver plays strong and loving father a role that he pretty much developed from his years on Supernatural. In short, the cast performs well enough, but the characters are a little predictable and with the exception of Edith and Thomas, pretty much not very deep.

They are, in fact, classic characters of the Gothic romance and that is the problem of the movie. Advertised as a Gothic terror movie, it is in reality a Gothic romance. The ghost story is, while creepy, really more of the frame that was common in romance stories. The movie is overly slow paced with seemingly extraneous details that don't really add to the story. It starts with Edith Cushing who wants to be a writer announcing that a baronet is a titled, self-important man who uses servants to meet his needs. She then immediately becomes enamored with the same baronet, Sir Thomas Sharpe and marries him in pretty short order.

From there the movie plods along with an occasional reminder that it's supposed to be a ghost story. There is also the trouble of the story Edith is writing which too is a Gothic ghost story, but we are never told enough about the story to know if what we are watching is the story or if it is a parallel prediction. We know that at least one editor wants Edith to add a romantic plotline to her story.

That is what Crimson Peak is a romantic plot with some creepy ghost and a fairly gruesome ending. It is far from the "horror" story it's been advertised as. For me, the other problem is the story has been done before and better. While I've found nothing to indicate that del Toro has said Peak is "The Fall of the House of Usher," it clearly is firmly entrenched in the Edgar Allan Poe Gothic story of madness and terror. In Crimson Peak, the main character becomes a strong female character rather than an old school chum. In "Usher," we have a sinking house, a "lunatic" family, incest, and the added bonus that we cannot be sure that we should trust the storyteller. Del Torro has included all this in his movie, but its pacing and lack of tight storytelling do nothing to bring the classic tale to life, and we have no reason not to trust Edith's story.

Crimson Peak is one that you might want to rent or wait for on a pay channel. Its moments of intensity and visuals are over weighted by slow pacing and loose plot. Instead just read "The Fall of the House of Usher" for a good Gothic tale.